My Paper Planes By Kenneth Wee
1. Compare and contrast the speaker’s attitude towards life with that of his subject in the poem.
From the way the speaker laments about his brother, we can clearly tell how the both of them have totally contrasting attitudes towards life. Moreover, as flying paper planes were one pastime that both brothers used to share in their childhood, the speaker talks about their paper planes metaphorically, letting us in on the way they each view the world.
Being the older brother, the speaker was a doom and gloom pessimist who viewed the world in dismal light. He was constantly harping on how “there was always homework and a thousand other things” that he could not devote his time to other more meaningful areas, such as spending quality time with his younger brother. He was also too caught up in the fast pace of work, that he forgot to take time and enjoy himself, or to carry himself with some humour and gaiety. As we see from the poem, he remembered his brother for “dancing to your bubbling laughter’s pace”, something which was not embodied in the speaker himself.
The speaker was also rather obdurate on the ways of the world. Living a very mundane routine throughout his lifetime, he has developed rigid ideals and lives in accordance to them. For instance, his pragmatic nature has shaped him into being diligent and discipline, challenging each obstacle that came in his way. However, this monotonous task has made him spiritless, for his thinks his life as unexciting. This can be seen from the degradory ways he describes earth as “dull” and homework as “earthbound”.
It is also evident that the speaker lives a life of regrets. Throughout the poem, there are constant notions of regret through the phrases such as “if only” and “meant to”. It can be inferred that the speaker was dissatisfied and unhappy with his stature, although he had lived up to his strict ideals. For example, he was remorseful about not spending time with his brother and “siding with mom”, realizing his faults only after it is too late to make amendments.
The speaker’s brother, on the other hand, was a hopeful optimist, who always saw the brighter side of life. Being younger, he was naturally more naï¿½ve, and viewed the world with more simplicity and curiosity. Due to their conflicting attitudes, he was told to “grow up, face the world” by his older brother. Even then, he remained carefree and possessed good humour, his “smiling face” bringing cheer to the people around him. However, a tinge of constraint to his nature could be felt from the poem, as his brother supposed was happier, “riding on imagination’s flight, away from the dull earth”. Although he lived in the same “dull earth” as his older brother, his high spirits were not diminished.
With the burning curiosity and vivid imagination in him, the speaker’s brother was idealistic and dared to dream, unlike his kin. He “set free earthbound homework into dreams that flew” and did not take life too seriously, for he was just a young soul, not aware of the real world. On the contrary to his elder brother, the subject’s attitude towards life was much more enthusiastic and his soul was like a little flame, gently brightening up the grey areas of the speaker’s life.
2. What can you tell about the relationship between the speaker and his subject’support your answer with evidence from the poem.
From the poem, I can conclude that the speaker and his subject did not really share a close sibling relationship, until things took a turn for the worst. After his brother’s death, the speaker then regretted not putting much effort into bonding with his brother, and became closer to him spiritually.
Firstly, their relationship was not very close because their personalities were totally contrasting each other. While the older brother was pessimistic, pragmatic and rigid, the younger one was an optimist, who dared to dream. Hence, there was no common interest between the two siblings, and both of them could not relate to each other. Besides, since the older brother was so caught up with “homework and a thousand other things”, he could not be bothered with his sibling, much less spend time with him. He was even “siding with mom” when his unworldly brother failed to prioritize between work and play.
The speaker remembered his brother for his “planes swirling with grace”, and “bubbling laughter’s pace”, some qualities that he himself did not possess. After the death of his younger brother, it then dawned on the speaker that the earth did not seem as “dull” as he made it out to be, and that his brother understood the ways of the world better than he. Thus, their relationship was more of mutual admiration and respect, rather than true compassionate sibling love. When they were young, the younger brother was obliged to respect the speaker, but after his death, the tables were turned and the speaker in turn looked up to his younger brother for his rosy prospect of life.
Secondly, the age gap between the two brothers also posed as a barrier for development of their relationship. Being older, the speaker had different priorities compared to his brother. For instance, he felt that imagining and dreaming were childish and insignificant. However, after his brother died, the speaker then started to relish the memories of his brother and threw the paper planes for him.
After all, those “poor pieces of paper” are all he had left of his brother.